Immobilized though unbroken, filmmaker turns camera on himself

April 2, 2016 - als

Patrick O’Brien described his life as a bachelor in New York as “chasing girls, celebration beer, lifting hell, and doing my thing.”

He ran a tiny association called — named for his adore of junk food — out of his unit on a Lower East Side. He was a front jockey, Internet personality, and art filmmaker.


In 2005, all changed. O’Brien, afterwards 30, was diagnosed with amyotrophic parallel sclerosis, a on-going neurodegenerative condition also famous as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“I had always wanted to write underline films,” he said. “I was looking for a subject. Then a theme found me.”

O’Brien spent a subsequent 10 years creation a documentary “Transfatty Lives.” The film won a 2015 assembly awards during a Tribeca and Milano film festivals. The Boston premiere is during Showcase Cinema in Revere on Sunday.

O’Brien, now 40, is wholly immobilized and on a ventilator. He destined and constructed “Transfatty Lives” by regulating his eyes and eyebrows to promulgate by a device trustworthy to his computer.

“ALS is a deadly and incorrigible disease,” O’Brien wrote around e-mail from a Leonard Florence Center for Living in Chelsea. “I have selected to do something with my illness. As we will see, we incited a camera on myself and began to request my tour with ALS. This plea has given me a focal indicate for my energies, and will hopefully enthuse others to keep relocating by their possess adversities.”


O’Brien pronounced a plan was probable by “the support of too many people to count; people who donated their time and energy, people who donated their expertise, and hundreds who donated to my crowd-funding campaigns over a years.”

Independent film crews of friends and family helped with a production. “Everyone got a possibility to run a camera,” he wrote. “On a film like this, travelling 10 years of one person’s experience, whoever is in a room during a time becomes a crew, becomes a cast, becomes a film. That is how we roll.”

As for a approval a documentary has already received, he wrote: “Winning a assembly endowment during a Tribeca Film Festival was a dream come true. Absolutely mind blowing.”

O’Brien pronounced “Transfatty Lives” is accessible on iTunes, Amazon, and other digital platforms. People also can horde a screening in their village or propagandize by Tugg.

The aim audience, he said, “is anyone and everyone. While a film is really irritable and provocative, a feedback we have perceived is also that it’s heartwarming and life affirming.”

O’Brien, who is creatively from Edison, N.J., was grieving in a normal nursing home in Baltimore when he bending adult online with landscape designer Steve Saling, who also has ALS and uses his eyes to communicate. Saling helped pattern a initial chateau that allows those with a illness to live independently. Opened in Chelsea in 2010 and named for Saling, it has 10 private bedrooms and common areas that feel like home.

Barry Berman is a CEO of a Chelsea Jewish Foundation, that administers homes for a infirm in Chelsea and Peabody. Berman went to revisit O’Brien in Baltimore, and shortly after O’Brien changed to a Steve Saling ALS Residence during a Leonard Florence Center for Living.

Besides producing films, O’Brien now travels and attends concerts, sporting events, movies, and parties.

“The film is raw,” Berman said. “Life with ALS is not a pleasing picture. And he doesn’t reason anything back.

“But, it’s not offensive,” he added. “He is humorous and clever. People will be great and laughing.”

Berman pronounced O’Brien “is brilliant,” adding that with ALS “the mind stays total while all else withers away.”

O’Brien wants to emanate some-more projects. “I am always operative on films in my conduct and have large skeleton for a future,” he wrote.

For now, he will be attending a screening of “Transfatty Lives” in Revere, participating in a question-and-answer session, and will be a star of a following reception. The uncover is during 10 a.m. during a Showcase Cinema, 565 Squire Rd. Tickets are $20 and all deduction advantage a Patrick O’Brien Foundation.

“It gives him a purpose and a life,” Berman said. “Here’s a chairman they never suspicion would get out of bed again. And now, he’ll be in his pinkish tuxedo during his Boston premiere.”

Wendy Killeen can be reached during

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